City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

SIGNING the genial John Wilson as Associate Guest Conductor is an astute move by the BBC Scottish. Already well-known for the concerts of Hollywood music he performs with his own orchestra, which he formed over twenty years ago when he was in his twenties, he now wants to be better known for more music than that, and has a ready rapport with the musicians, whose own wide remit often includes "light" music. It was odd then that the combined pulling power of his name and that of tenor Ian Bostridge left many seats empty on Thursday.

This programme of 20th century English music included the most compelling account of Anthony Payne's completion of Elgar's Third Symphony I think I've heard, where the Finale – which has, I believe, the greatest input from Payne – the most Elgar-ish. The beginning of the piece is far from that, and although not celebratory, it is big and bold, while the third movement undoubtedly sounds like the statement of a dying man, but in Wilson's hands was still appealingly dramatic and even cinematic, to the final notes from Scott Dickinson's viola. The second movement Scherzo, however, seemed playful and Frenchified in its dialogue between winds and strings.

Speaking before the concert, Wilson noted that in Britten's Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings the composer "set poems that didn't need to be set", arguing that the works of Tennyson, Blake, Keats et al are musical enough as they stand. Arguably that excuses Bostridge's lack of clarity in the diction department, in what was nonetheless a beautifully musical performance of a work that well-suits his singular voice. The same, it should be added, was true of horn soloist Christopher Parkes.